HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swine Flu

The Washington Post reports on the recent outbreak of a new strain of swine flu.  Rob Stein and David Brown write,

An unusual strain of swine flu has been detected among victims of a large outbreak of a severe respiratory illness in Mexico, prompting global health officials, fearful of a potential flu pandemic, to scramble yesterday to try to contain the virus. . . .

The outbreak heightened alarm among health officials in the United States, where at least eight cases of swine flu have been detected along the U.S.-Mexican border, and elsewhere.

"It's alarming and very concerning," said Sari Setiogi, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization in Geneva, which began an investigation of the cause and scope of the outbreak.

President Obama has been briefed about the illness, spokesman Reid Cherlin said, adding: "The White House is taking the situation seriously and monitoring for any new developments." . . .

You can learn more about the swine flu from the FluWiki website.  The CDC website provides excellent health information and guidance and is continually updating its information.

April 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Further Delay/Potential Filibuster on Sebelius Nomination

The Washington Post reports on the continued delay in the Senate on the approval of Governor Sebelius nomination to be the Secretary of HHS.  Ceci Connolly writes,

President Obama will have to wait a bit longer to round out his Cabinet. Senate Republicans refused today to allow a confirmation vote on his health secretary nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.). She is the last Cabinet member awaiting Senate approval.

At the start of the session today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proposed taking a vote after five hours of debate. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected, arguing that lawmakers needed more time to consider her "fairly contentious" selection. . . .

In the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, eight of 10 GOP members opposed her nomination. Two Republicans, Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Olympia Snowe of Maine, voted to confirm her.  . . .

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said today that, if necessary, the Democratic leader intends to pursue the procedural maneuvers needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. That would likely push a confirmation vote into next week.  "We're confident there will be the 60 votes needed to confirm her," Manley said.

This afternoon, McConnell's office clarified in a statement that the nomination is "not stymied, she's just not getting confirmed today" and said that concerns about a filibuster are premature.

April 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Upcoming Presentation on Health Law and Policy

Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy


We invite you to attend an address by health law and policy faculty on:

The Current State of Health Care Reform

Friday, May 1, 2009
7:00 - 9:00 pm

Ceremonial Courtroom at Loyola Law Center
Tenth Floor ~ 25 East Pearson Street ~ Chicago, Illinois

Join us for hors d'oeuvres and cocktails following the address.

Kindly RSVP by April 27.

April 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Plan B Available to 17 Year Olds w/o Prescription

The Associated Press reports that the FDA has changed course and will be permitting young women to obtain Plan B without a doctor's prescription.  The article provides,

Food and Drug Administration, reversing field, will now let 17-year-olds get the 'morning-after' birth control pill without a doctor's prescription, a government health official said Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the agency will announce that it is complying with a federal judge's order that overturns a Bush administration policy. The official was not authorized to speak publicly before the FDA announcement, expected later Wednesday.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled in a New York lawsuit that Bush administration appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to allow over-the-counter access to these pills only for women 18 and older. Korman ordered the agency to let 17-year-olds get the medication, and separately to evaluate whether all age restrictions should be lifted. . . .

April 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What good services do your tax dollars provide?

Nuisance Industry, writing at DailyKos, has an article about water contamination and cancer in a community outside Chicago.  The website provides,

Corruption is in Cook County, Illinois, and it is endangering residents.  This week, the Chicago Tribune reported on a scandal more than 20 years in the making.  

Like every town across the nation, south suburban Crestwood tucks a notice into utility bills each summer reassuring residents their drinking water is safe. Village leaders also trumpet the claim in their monthly newsletter, while boasting they offer the cheapest water rates in Cook County.

But those pronouncements hide a troubling reality: For more than two decades, the 11,000 or so residents in this working-class community unknowingly drank tap water contaminated with toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems, a Tribune investigation found.

In many ways, Crestwood is a Republican success story, a place where taxes are low despite being situated in one of the most urbanized counties in the United States.  The village prides itself on having among the lowest municipal taxes in the country. In the shadow of Chicago, it is a tax haven that Grover Norquist could brag about.

How did Crestwood achieve this?  Norquist would be proud of the ways in which the village ignored regulators and endangering the health of its citizens for years.  The Illinois EPA informed the village in 1986 that its municipal well had been contaminated by dry cleaning solvents, including the highly toxic chemical vinyl chloride.  . . .    Given this information from the EPA, local officials might have moved to close the well, or to clean it up.  That did not happen. . . .

The well wasn't shut off for good until December 2007, after the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency tested the water for the first time in more than 20 years. The agency found not only that the well was still contaminated but that Crestwood had been piping the water, untreated, to residents.

This decision had consequences.  Local residents have reported incidences of cancers, including brain tumors and kidney cancers.  Now the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is investigating why this well was used for more than 20 years after regulators brought its dangers to the attention of local officials. . . .

April 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Convincing the Already Insured about the Need for Health Reform

The Seattle Times has an editorial by Froma Harrop discussing a difficult group to convince that health reform is necessary.   The author writes about some potentially helpful arguments to convince these individuals,

The hardest group to sell on national health reform is those who don't desperately need it. That would include Americans who already have coverage through a workplace, about 160 million in all, and are reasonably happy with their deal.

The comfortably insured are always the target for scare-talk about rationing, loss of choice, higher taxes and government takeovers of health care. After all, they're the ones with something to lose, or so they've been led to believe. . . .

To win, reformers must avoid wonkery and answer this simple question: "What's in it for me?" . . . .

For starters, more money. Your company health plan does not come free. Part of your compensation package, its cost gets subtracted from your paycheck. Employer-provided health coverage cut cash wages by nearly 8 percent last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. . . .

Any rational program would also curb waste. America spends $8,000 per person on health care, about twice the rich-country average. There's lots of room to save money without sacrificing quality. Bear in mind that America's tendency to over-treat people does not produce outcomes superior to the best European systems. And lowering premiums ends up as money in your pocket. . . .

What about freedom to choose providers and treatments? Well, private insurance also sets rules on what it will cover and typically provides lists of preferred doctors and hospitals. If your plan lets you go out of the network, you have to pay extra for the privilege. Nothing wrong with that, but we must drop the romantic notion that private coverage affords total freedom at popular prices.

So what's in it for me, the contentedly covered? If the plan is done right, I am left healthy and wealthier. And if I ditch my job — or my job ditches me — I can find affordable coverage. That should not be a hard sell to anybody.

Thanks to DemFromCt for the link.

April 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sebelius Wins Approval from Senate Committee

Governor Kathleen Sebelius won Senate Finance Committee approval and a vote on her appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services could be soon.   It is about time as President Obama had his first Cabinet meeting yesterday.  According to an Associated Press story, 

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the Finance Committee chairman, said he would "push for immediate action by the full Senate so that she can finally roll up her sleeves and get down to helping out on this critical work of reforming the health care system." The committee vote came after several Republicans voiced concerns in recent days about Sebelius' ties to Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion doctor who is under investigation by the Kansas medical board. The GOP also questioned her commitment to ensuring that the government doesn't try to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. . . .

Sebelius had offered assurances that she believed it was the job of doctors, not the government, to prescribe care. That wasn't enough for some GOP lawmakers worried that the Obama administration's plans to overhaul the nation's costly health care system could move the country toward a government-operated health care system. . . .

April 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not Caving on a Public Health Care Plan

Health Care reform advocates are a bit alarmed about the potential for "caving" on the health care reform agenda.  According to Ceci Connolly writing in the Washington Post,

As Congress returns to begin an intense debate over reshaping the nation's $2.2 trillion health-care system, prominent left-leaning organizations and liberal House members are issuing a warning to their Democratic allies: Don't cave on us. . . .

More than 70 House Democrats recently warned party leaders that they will not support a broad health reform bill that does not offer consumers a government-sponsored policy, and two unions withdrew from a high-profile health coalition because it would not endorse a public plan.  "It's way too early" to abandon what it considers a central plank in health reform, said Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union. He said the organization pulled out of the bipartisan Health Reform Dialogue because it feared its friends in the coalition were sacrificing core principles too soon. "You don't make compromises with your allies."

Last week, two top administration officials suggested that Obama is open to compromise on the public plan, comments that set off alarm bells in some corners of his party.  "That's what got the left nervous. I took that as a signal to Senator Grassley" that Obama is willing to negotiate around an issue Grassley has vehemently opposed, said Len Nichols, health policy director at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, referring to  Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "It was the first time the president indicated he could live without it."

During last year's campaign, Obama proposed offering a government-sponsored plan as a low-cost alternative for Americans who are having trouble purchasing insurance in the private market. Proponents say it would reduce costs because it would not need to make a profit or pay large executive salaries. Many Republicans and industry executives say that any program modeled after Medicare -- with its power to set prices -- would have an unfair advantage over private-sector competitors and eventually force some companies out of business. "The sacred cow on the left and the right is the public plan," said former senator Thomas A. Daschle, who was Obama's first choice to oversee the reform effort.  . . .

April 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Some Statistics on Delayed Health Care

Reuters reports on the findings of its new survey that shows one in five Americans have postponed medical care.  The article provides, 

Twenty percent of Americans say they have delayed or postponed medical care, mostly doctor visits, and many said cost was the main reason, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters released on Monday.

That figure is up since 2006, the last time the question was asked on the survey, when 15.9 percent of people said they had postponed or canceled medical care in the past year.

"The results of this survey have serious implications for public health officials, hospital administrators, and healthcare consumers," Gary Pickens of the Healthcare division of Thomson Reuters, who led the study, said in a statement. "We are seeing a positive correlation between Americans losing their access to employer-sponsored health insurance and deferral of healthcare." . . . .

Pickens and colleagues surveyed 12,000 Americans in February and March and said their findings were representative of the United States in general.  They found that 24 percent of people who canceled or postponed care said cost was the primary reason. 

More than 54 percent who skipped care said they missed a doctor visit. Eight percent said they delayed or skipped medical imaging of some sort.

Pickens and colleagues found the percentage of households with employer-sponsored insurance declined to 54.6 percent in 2009 from 59 percent in early 2008. The percentage of adults covered by Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance plan for the poor, rose to 14.5 percent in 2009 from 11.9 percent in 2008.

April 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 20, 2009

US News Rankings

Concurring Opinions' Dave Hoffman provides a look at the 2009 US News Rankings that we really don't care too much about . . . . although we do. 

April 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Republican Health Care Plans??

I haven't posted much about what the Republicans in Congress plan to propose as an alternative to some of the Preisident's health reform efforts and policies.  This results from a certain lack of plans from the Republican party at this time.  Carrie Brown at reports,

Republicans look across the health reform battlefield and see the Democrats organized, energized and flush with cash — with several groups lined up to promote the president’s plan, and a message honed by years of preparation.  Then they look into their own camp — and get nervous.

There’s no Republican plan yet. No Republicans leading the charge who have coalesced the party behind them. Their message is still vague and unformed. Their natural allies among insurers, drug makers and doctors remain at the negotiating table with the Democrats. . . .

“I thought we would have been much farther along than we are,” said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a physician who started the Health Care Caucus this year and wrote a 29-page “primer” for his colleagues. “Senator [John] McCain, for all his faults, had a program a year ago. People became pretty comfortable with McCain carrying the load on that and when he wasn’t successful in November, it left a big void.” . . .

April 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stem Cell Breakthrough for Blindness

Daily Kos' Darksyde links to an article in the Times Online reporting on a terrific advance in stem cell research.  The website provides,

Times Online is reporting that a British research team has developed a promising treatment for the most common causes of blindness using embryonic stem cells:

The treatment will tackle age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness. It affects more than 500,000 Britons and the number is forecast to increase significantly as people live longer.

There’s roughly a 50/50 chance that anyone who lives to age one-hundred will develop AMD to some extent. Some will be blind as a bat long before reaching the century mark. With early diagnosis and aggressive treatment using newer drugs, the onset of advanced AMD can often be delayed or halted. Some of those drugs cost thousands of dollars a dose and they have to be taken regularly for life. Can’t say how that might work in the UK, but here in the US it means the eyesight of millions of baby boomers will be tossed into the vicious snapping jaws of our profit-obsessed health insurance industry. . . .

The website provides further interesting information about this research and the response it has received.


April 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)